Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Room Reveal

It's taken a little while to get pictures up, but it's done! The guest bedroom I was working on is finished, and has even passed the "guest test" twice! ...And I have pictures for you!  :)

I really enjoyed working on this room, tying to create the right balance between calm, serene, and cozy; while providing all the amenities necessary to make staying in this room a wonderful experience. 

Be sure to check out this post for tips on how to make your own guest space more comfortable and inviting!























Monday, June 8, 2015

A Complete Guide to Creating the ULTIMATE Guest Room

(Warning: This is a long post! Bear with me because there's lots of great info here.)


Have you ever been staying in someone else's home and realized that you forgot something...one of those really important things that you absolutely need (like your toothbrush!)...and you have to make a late-night run to the store to pick up whatever it was that you forgot? Or awaken early (or sat up late) and found yourself absolutely starving, but there's no one else up and you don't want to go raid the kitchen? Or maybe you found yourself having to borrow a piece of paper from your host, just so you can leave them a thank you note.

This seems to be a regular occurrence for me. Almost without fail, I forget to bring my makeup remover whenever I'm staying somewhere for just a few nights. And as for snacks,  having kids has taught me to keep a granola bar in my purse, just in case.  : )

I've recently been working on a guest bedroom, and had the chance to address these issues, and so many other things to give you a well-stocked guest room so you can be perfectly prepared.  With all these amenities though, you might have a hard time getting your guests to leave!  

This is a pretty solid run-down of what I included in this guest room.


  • I put together a little amenities basket - things your guests may have forgotten, or just might appreciate having access too, as well as a snack basket (see details below).  Both of these are placed on a darling little bar cart, which can be rolled out of the way if necessary. 
  • Amazingly soft, 600 thread-count sheets.  You can easily save money on other things in the room, so go ahead and splurge a little on nice, good quality and high thread count sheets (do this in your own bedroom too!).  This is what your guest sleep between/have right up against their body, so you want it to be nice.  Good sheets will last a long time too!
  • Find some nice, fluffy towels and designate them as your guest towels.  That way you can't be caught off guard without a clean set of towels for your guests.  You can choose a color that goes along with your bathroom or guest room decor, though I like to stick with white.  It's easier to clean and bleach if necessary.  A colored towel may fade over time, and if you have to buy new ones, you run the risk of having the new towels not matching the old, or just not finding the original color all together.  
  • Open up the closet, and you'll find space cleared out for guests to hang anything that might be necessary, nice wooden hangers, and a big fluffy robe and pair of slippers.  The robe and slippers can be easily washed between guests and stored in the back of the closet when not in use.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished for a robe to throw over my pj's, especially on early mornings or in a full house!
  • The nightstands contain an alarm clock, a few one or two-person games (in this case I included two decks of cards - a bridge set actually, since they were so pretty, and a cribbage board), and some books.  These titles may include, classic literature, something from the most recent best-seller list, and/or some of my personal favorites.  I'm a reader myself, and I love to start books when I'm visiting people, but I don't always manage to finish before I have to leave, so it's a nice touch to include copies of books that you're not attached to, so your guest can take a half-finished book with them without feeling like they have to return it asap.  (Your local thrift store should have all kinds of great titles for cheap!)  If there's room on a lower shelf/in a drawer, you could also include a few magazines.
  • Pen and paper - A cute notepad, or some fun personalized stationary and a pen or two is a great touch.  Your guests can use it for whatever they need...like an eloquently crafted letter of thanks to you for setting up such an amazing guest room!  :)
  • It's also important to leave space!  Remember that your guests will be bringing things with them, so leave room on the nightstands and dresser top for their stuff as well.  The room won't feel cozy or even complete if you leave these surfaces completely bare, but try not to cover every square inch.  Follow the rule of thirds, and decorate 1/3 of your horizontal/table top space and leave the other 2/3 clear.  While you're clearing things off, make sure there are a few easy-to-access outlets.  We all love our technology, and it's nice to leave a place for guests to recharge. If all your outlets are hidden behind furniture, it never hurts to have an extension cord plugged in and accessible.
  • If you have the space, a stool or chair gives your guests a place to set their suitcases while unpacking, as well as a place to sit down.  

Toiletries Basket
You never know what you’re going to forget when you’re traveling, and these are some of the things you don’t want to be caught without.  It’s also easy to cater to your guests' specific needs.  (For example, I might not keep contact solution and a case in here all the time, but if I know the person who’s visiting wears contacts, I might throw in a little travel-sized set.)

What I included here:
  • Puffs plus Tissues
Travel-sized versions of:
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Hairspray
  • Lotion
  • Downy wrinkle release spray
  • Lint roller
  • All-natural makeup removal wipes
  • Disposable razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Advil/pain killers
  • First aid kit
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Chapstick


Some other things you might add:

  • Contact solution and case
  • Hair ties and bobby pins
  • Feminine hygiene products

Snack Basket – I like to include something that can be packed in a bag and taken along on a day trip if necessary

  • Freshly washed Apples (the ones in the picture are Honeycrisp)
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • A selection of still and sparkling water (smart water and San Pellegrino here)

Separate Tray - I kept these things on a tray separate from the snacks, mainly because I didn't have enough room for everything on my "guest cart." If you have the room, these could be combined with the snacks.  


  • Ghirardelli Chocolates (a yummy little treat - chocolate is usually my favorite - is a nice touch, and since Ghirardelli is relatively local, I thought that was fun.)
  • Pretty water glasses
  • Water carafe (depending on where you put this, you could fill it with ice water right before your guests arrive)
  • Coasters


*A note on the snacks - If there is a local/regional specialty in the snack department (chocolate, pastries, candies, etc.) this would be a fun thing to include in your snack basket for out-of-town guests.

Whew!  I know that was long, but you made it!  I'd love hear how you've decorated your guest room!  Share in the comments section below!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Best Ever Carrot Cake and my little sister's wedding

So, my little sister got married last weekend and guess who was in charge of making the wedding cake?  Yep - yours truly!  She requested a carrot cake and really, I would just go with my very favorite, and seriously amazing, carrot cake recipe, but there's just one tiny problem.  It has pecans on top, and they really just seem to make the cake. It's just not the same without the nuts!  I didn't think my sister would really be happy with the idea of having chopped nuts all over her wedding cake, so I had to come up with something different.  Instead of putting the nuts on top, I included them in a coconut cream cheese filling.  I also gave the cake a bit of a coconut boost by substituting coconut oil for the vegetable oil in the original recipe. This lessens the carrot flavor a little bit, but makes a nice blend of the carrot and coconut instead.

I absolutely love the cake with this filling!  I've been in love with my carrot cake recipe for a long time and wasn't looking to improve it, but I think that I'm going to have to start making it with this filling from now on!

This recipe makes about 6 cups of batter.  I used it for a 6-inch 3-layer cake.  You can also make a 9-inch 2-layer cake.

Best Ever Carrot Cake

For a more intense coconut flavor, try using coconut oil and coconut extract.
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 c cooking oil/coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract (optional)
  • 3 c finely shredded carrots
  • 1/2 c shredded coconut
  • Cream Cheese Filling (see below)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease three 6-inch cake pans and line the bottom with waxed/parchment paper.  Grease the paper as well.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in medium bowl to blend.  (*Note: if using coconut oil, gently heat until almost melted, stir, and let cool a little bit.  You don't want it so hot that it melts all of the sugar.)  In a separate bowl, mix oil and sugar until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.  Add the coconut extract now if you're using it.  Mix in the dry ingredients.  Stir in carrots and coconut.

Divide batter between pans - about 2 cups in each.  Bake layers for 45 minutes each, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes.  Turn out onto racks, peel off paper and cool cakes completely.

Frost cake using the Cream Cheese Filling between each layer, and Cream Cheese Frosting on top/around the sides. (*I didn't quite use all of the filling on the cake.  If you have leftovers too, use it up in between graham crackers, or maybe just with a spoon!)  Be sure to do a thin crumb coat of frost on the outside and let it set before frosting the cake completely.  That way you won't end up with cake crumbs throughout your frosting!

Coconut Cream Cheese Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 2/3 c chopped pecans
  • 1 c shredded coconut
Cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Mix in the vanilla and powdered sugar until well combined.

Cream Cheese Frosting 
  • 6 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Blend cream cheese and butter together until well combined.  Add vanilla.  Mix in powdered sugar until everything is incorporated.  (If you find that it's too thick, add about 1 tsp milk at a time until you get it where you want it.)

(Photo credit for the wedding cake goes to Amelinda Olson.  Thanks!)


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

6 Ideas for Redecorating on a Budget - Guest Post

The folks over at Modernize.com recently contacted me about a guest post.  This is such a great topic too.  I think so many of us are looking for ways to give our homes a face-lift without breaking the bank.  Check out some of Jane Blanchard's ideas for redecorating on a budget. 

6 Ideas for Redecorating on a Budget
By Jane Blanchard


Every now and then most homeowners become aware that their surroundings need a lift, but many will hesitate to even think about a makeover because of the money such a project would entail. The truth is, redecorating does not have to be impossibly expensive. Here are 6 ideas you can use to redecorate without dislocating your finances.

1. Purge your place of clutter. Believe it or not, decluttering is sometimes the only way a new look can be born, and for some people, it is the most problematic part of redecorating. Take a look at the stuff in your house and honestly assess what no longer contributes to making your habitat look attractive. Find the courage to give away the things that constitute clutter. If you can do this, a substantial part of your redecorating project is as good as done!

2. Give the walls a coat of paint in a new color. A new coat of paint will make your house look incredibly new, and you can up the ante by splashing on a different color. If you would rather not make radical changes in your color scheme, you can try introducing a somewhat related shade from the same color family. For example, it is possible to go from light gray to a lighter or a darker gray, or you can level up from cream to light canary yellow. This way most of your old stuff will fit right in.



3. Liven up your walls with frames. Ordinary frames can do a lot to liven up your walls in a totally extraordinary way. For example, imagine a group of pictures in black frames arranged as a group against a taupe wall. Or, a large print of Van Gogh’s sunflowers at the center of a pale yellow wall would really give a room lots of personality. You don’t need to purchase expensive frames to create drama on your walls.

4. Refinish your old furniture. A coat of varnish on wooden furniture and new slipcovers will make a big difference in whether your home looks well-kept or shabby. If you are willing to take on the challenge of reupholstering chairs, there are plenty of videos and online articles to help you learn the process.

Refinishing old furniture means investing in a lot of elbow grease, but it will be worth it. Start by refinishing and reupholstering simpler pieces such as chairs. You will be surprised at the way your refashioned chairs can make a room refreshingly different.

5. Refresh your living room with throw pillows. Throw pillows are a truly effective and unbelievable cheap way to add pizazz to your renovation. You can have loads of fun gathering throw pillows of the right color, print, size, and shape to create the look you want. For example, symmetrical, solid color pillows evenly distributed on a couch will give your seating area a formal ambiance, while brightly printed ones in bright colors will create a relaxed setting.

6. Explore new window treatments. There is just no way you can give your house a new look if your curtains are threadbare. Unless you pick high end drapes, new curtains need not be prohibitively expensive. There are numerous ways to come up with creative window treatments.

For instance, you might want to experiment with no-sew Roman shades. Not only are these are extremely easy to do, they cost very little.

It is important to have a plan when you start your redecorating. Go through the rooms you want to redecorate and imagine how you want them to look when you are done. Browse through popular decorating magazines and brochures to get a clearer vision of how you can get more dash for less cash.

For more design ideas and inspiration, head to Modernize.com.



Thanks Jane!  These are some great ideas!  Sometimes it's those simple things that we forget all about and they're really the most important.  (Like picking up clutter... :) )  

What are some ways you like to redecorate your home on a budget?  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Guest Room Sneak Peek

I've been working on a guest bedroom recently and I'm really excited at how it's coming along. I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek.  Now you can be as excited as I am!

Stay tuned for the final reveal, as well as details on how I set up the room for guests!


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